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White House Seating Causes Awkward Photo Op (Photos)

White House Seating Causes Awkward Photo Op (Photos) Promo Image

Being seated next to the president would be considered a high honor for many people, but for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who has publicly denounced President Donald Trump, his seat to the left of the U.S. leader made for a highly awkward photo op. 

During the Dec. 5 photo op, Trump spoke of Republican unity after the Senate passed their version of a tax reform bill, setting up what could be the party's greatest legislative achievement since Trump took office. 

"There's a great spirit in the Republican Party like I've never seen before -- like a lot of people have said they've never seen before," Trump said, according to CNN. "They've never seen anything like this, the unity." 

Trump's praise of Republican unity while seated next to one of his most vocal critics in the GOP seemed designed to imply he had forced Flake into submission. And by sitting next to Trump, Flake helped the president sell that image. 

It is unclear if Flake had any choice in the seating arrangement or knew he would be seated next to Trump, according to The Washington Post. 

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Strategic seating arrangements are nothing new for Trump. After Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi backed out of a scheduled spending bill meeting with Trump in November, Trump held the meeting dramatically flanked by two empty chairs reserved for the Democratic leaders. 

Trump took the opportunity on Dec. 5 to reaffirm his support of Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, a position Flake does not share.

"A Roy Moore victory is no victory for the GOP and the nation," Flake tweeted the day before the photo op. Moore has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior toward girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s. 

"I think [Moore] is going to do very well," Trump said during the photo op, according to The Hill. "We don't want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me," he said, referring to Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. 

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"We want strong borders, we want stopping crime, we want the things we represent," Trump continued.

"We certainly don't want to have a liberal Democrat that's controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer," he said, according to CNN. 

Flake didn't have the opportunity to speak during the photo op, but later showed his opposition to Trump and Moore by tweeting a photo of a $100 check written to the Jones campaign. 

"Country over party," read the memo line of Flake's check. 

Sources: CNN, The Washington Post, Jeff Flake/Twitter, The Hill / Featured Image: Shealah Craighead/White House / Embedded Images: Getty via The Hill, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via The Washington Post

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